music as dementia therapy
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Dementia Care with Playlist for Life

The positive benefits of music for people living with dementia is well known throughout the care sector. Where previously powerful sedatives and mood-altering drugs were regularly prescribed to reduce feelings of agitation and distress in people with dementia, we now recognise that the therapeutic benefits of music can provide a virtually side-effect free alternative. 

At Avery, we have long recognised the importance of utilising music in this way to support residents with dementia to continue to live well. Thanks to media coverage, including the recent BBC ‘Our Dementia Choir’ series, this message is now spreading more widely.

As part of our Avery ReConnect strategy, five of our homes received training from the charity Playlist for Life in 2018 to help them to support residents with dementia. By identifying songs and pieces of music that have personal significance to an individual, it is possible to use positive memories associated with each piece of music to relieve distress and promote feelings of calm and general well-being. Playlist for Life is already having a real impact on the well-being of our residents and their families. The daughter of one resident commented that “For the first time in a long time I feel a connection with my mum again”.

Following the impact of the initial piece of work, Heather Perkins, Dementia Support Advisor, recently attended training in Scotland to become an accredited Playlist for Life Trainer. Having a Playlist for Life Trainer in Avery will enable our teams to receive training in a more flexible way, which will provide significant benefit to our residents and their families. The team at Acer Court in Nottingham were the first to receive training from Heather last month.

Complementing this musical theme, we are also introducing Amazon Echo into all of our homes so that our residents can get to know Alexa. During a pilot project which involved four of our homes, staff and residents used the power of Alexa in various ways, including listening to favourite pieces of music, hearing short stories and reminiscing over favourite pieces of poetry. Some of our homes also arranged themed afternoons involving the families and friends of our residents.

Supporting the families and friends of residents with dementia is an essential part of our ReConnect Programme. Due to a well-publicised lack of resources in the Health and Social care sector in the UK, the loved ones of people with dementia often don’t receive the practical or emotional help that they need, and we want to readdress this. Jo Crossland, Head of Dementia Care, will begin a period of PhD study with Leeds Beckett University this autumn to develop a family resource for the relatives of residents living with dementia in all Avery care homes. We will share Jo’s progress in future issues of this magazine.

Article by Jo Crossland, Head of Dementia Care, for Welcome Home Issue 11.

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